jasper the badger

Sir, your badger…

Yes, his name is Jasper.

Sir, some of the passengers have reported your badger has been biting their ankles.

Why do you persist in referring to him as ‘your badger’? He has a name, dammit, and it’s Jasper.

Whatever his name, sir, we can’t have him running amok in the cabin.

He’s not running amok. As you can see he is resting peacefully at my feet, safely stowed under the seat in front of me, per your draconian regulations.

That may be the case at the moment, sir, but just a few minutes ago he was up in first class, where not only did he nearly sever a woman’s pinky toe from her right foot but when I tried to corral him back here into coach, he rather nimbly leapt upon a man’s lap, causing severe scratches to the unfortunate man’s groin area. I had to administer first aid in both cases.

Hmm, that doesn’t sound like Jasper at all. Are you sure there’s not another badger on board that you may have mistaken for Jasper? To the untrained eye badgers do often look indistinguishable from one another.

Sir, I assure you there is only one badger on board this airplane and frankly at this point I’m wondering how it was ever approved for air travel.

On Jasper’s behalf I must take offense at your implication. I’ll have you know that Jasper is a certified emotional support badger. He went through a rigorous six-month training program, during which it was very difficult on both of us to be separated. If you’d like I can show you the certificate he earned. He’s quite proud of it.

That is all well and good, sir, but I simply must ask you to please ensure your badger remains under the seat in front of you for the duration of the flight.

And I must tell you that is where Jasper has been, despite these questionable reports of a rogue badger you continue to unfairly foist upon me. Frankly, I’m of a mind to contact the airline and report your egregious manners to the customer service department. What is your badge number, anyway?

Sir, I am a flight attendant. I do not have a badge number. And you are of course welcome to submit your report, but please know there will also be a report submitted that details the havoc your badger has wreaked in the first class section today, including descriptions of the numerous injuries sustained by the innocent passengers caught in the melee.

Well, I must say I’m skeptical of their innocence. They are traveling in first class, after all, and my experience with those types of people is that they always have some traces, however faint, of blood on their hands. So it’s likely this other rogue badger you claim is present somewhere in the cabin was simply settling certain karmic debts. Badgers are actually often tasked in this way with balancing the natural scales of justice, so to speak.

[What follows is a flash of silvery fur, a brief strangled cry, then silence.]

While the plane did eventually complete its flight without any further major incidents, the final medical report listed five victims of badger-inflicted injuries, including the near-fatal laceration of a flight attendant’s femoral artery. While no charges were pressed in this case, Jasper never flew again, at least not on that airline. Attempts by said airline to verify the existence of a training program for emotional support badgers led nowhere, although the investigation did uncover rumors of a similarly described program for marmots located somewhere in rural Washington state.

the end of the beginning

She looked different from every angle, causing no one to ever remember her. She divided her time between this and that. There were long walks to nowhere. There were staring-out-the-window reveries lasting for hours until a thin string of drool hung from a mouth agape. As evening’s loam drifted down around her, rooting her further in place, she closed her dry mouth and prepared for bed.

She woke up at the same time every day with high ambitions. By the end of breakfast these were dashed to pieces on the great hulking boulders of the afternoon hours, casting their dark shadows as they always do across the glowing yellow light of daybreak. She dressed herself regardless. Her uniform consisted of a shapeless grey jumpsuit and knee-high rubber boots. It is possible that birds nested in her hair. Yet on certain days she looked neat as a pin. Without her uniform, in fact, she looked like most anyone else. It all depended on the angle.

She eked out a living by teaching small children how to pour without spilling. It was one skill she had perfected before she realized the entire system was rigged. Her services were very much in demand, for most parents did not want their children making a mess, while at the same time they were ashamed of their own inability to pour without spilling. Thus they were determined to give their children the one chance they never had, to progress through life without the need to always mop up the table after serving drinks.

Her one true friend was a mollusc named Boil that had lost its shell and now spent its days at the coffee shop down the street from her quarters. The mollusc was irascible in temperament but tolerated her, for she would stroke its foot when it grew apoplectic. Most days she and Boil sat in the coffee shop drinking espresso and waiting for the day to end so they could go home and go to bed. They filled this time among the hulking boulders by doing crosswords and spitting on other customers when the barista wasn’t looking. The barista, a morose badger named Larry, disliked Boil. The feeling was mutual, in fact, for it is well known that badgers and molluscs are natural enemies.

This was her life. She was sure the beginning had ended at some point. But when and where that had happened remained elusive. When she was young she remembered playing with molluscs in the tidal pools at the ocean beach. She never dreamed that after the beginning of the end she would find herself spending most days drinking coffee with a mollusc. Things have a way of coming full circle, though, don’t they, she thought. But was there a hand other than her own drawing that circle, this she also wondered as she walked. And then the window. And then the drool. And then the blinding yellow light shattering the boulders, grinding them to fine powder, the fertile loam of her life.

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